The suborbital flight lasted only 15 1/2 minutes, but lifted American morale and made Alan Shepard a national hero. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.
His name was Alan Shepard, and he was the second man – and first American – into space. His flight took place on May 5, 1961.
The second man, because the USSR had sent up Yuri Gagarin less than a month earlier. The space race wasn’t a matter of dueling technologies, but of competing ideologies. For America, the challenge to beat the Russians into space paralleled the struggle to achieve political superiority over Communism.
Shepard safely completed his 15½ minute flight and became an instant hero. He had sat in a nose cone on top of a Redstone rocket and been exploded into the atmosphere. He received accolades, parades, and met President Kennedy. His successful mission motivated the President to appear before a joint session of Congress just a few weeks later and challenge the country to send a man to the moon “before this decade is out.”
Shepard went on to become the fifth man to walk on the moon. He’s the one who took the famous golf shot. By the way, when asked what he was thinking while sitting in the capsule waiting to be launched into space, he replied, “The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.”
Probably the most famous performance of the song ever, Marilyn Monroe to John Kennedy. Uploaded by marilyn.superhost.pl.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that this is the most recognized song in the English language. (The runners up, according to the Guiness Book of World Records: For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and Auld Lang Syne.)
Sisters Mildred and Patty Hill were kindergarten teachers who wanted a simple melody that children could sing, so they came up with this tune and called it “Good Morning to All.” (“Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear children, good morning to you.”) It’s not really clear how the song morphed into the most common birthday song, but the words and music appeared together as early as 1912.
Isn't this better than showing kids singing around a cake? Uploaded by zulva.com.
Today, the song is copyrighted. Probably. Maybe. Sort of. The fact is that Warner Music Group claims a copyright, and enforces it to the tune of $2 million in royalties in 2008 alone. Copyright scholars (if such a term is appropriate) say that if disputed in court, the copyright might not hold. But no one wants to take on that battle, so films and television shows either pony up the dough or avoid the song.
Well, it’s sad when the most you can say in discussing a song is that its trademark is in question. You can’t talk about the many outstanding cover versions recorded, the subtleties of phrasing, or the fresh and inspiring melody. Even so, sing Happy Birthday To You all you want.
Just don’t let The Man catch you.
Wonder if royalties were paid for this performance?
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.